Mansfield Town are planning to improve the number of players from their junior sides that make it all the way to the first team by aiming for prestigious Elite Player Performance Plan status.
EPPP is a youth development scheme initiated by the Premier League, intended to increase the quantity of homegrown players making first team appearances and new academy manager Richard Cooper is excited by the prospect of achieving it.
“We have an opportunity to put a proposal together, so our junior sides are basically working off the same guidelines as our U18s and U21s,” he said.
“It’s something which is in the background at the minute and is being driven by the directors behind the scenes.
“We’ll be looking at that over the next few weeks and months to come.
COOPER NAMED AS NEW STAGS ACADEMY MANAGER
“The short term goal is to build on what we had last season, and get those lads into the gaffer’s (John Dempster) training.
“The long term is the vision of the football club, to go from U9s to U16s with the EPPP status.”
Cooper was recently appointed as academy manager after a spell as a senior professional development coach and said: “It’s an opportunity I’m really looking forward to.
“I’ve been at the club a long while and I was part of the first team staff for the best part of five seasons.
“I got involved with the youth coaching in the first year I was here, when we were still in the Conference.
“So to be put in charge of the academy side is really exciting for me. There’s a chance to evolve the academy, which is in such a great place at the minute.
“The directors want to move it forward even more, and to be given that opportunity, I’m really grateful for it.”
Cooper explained that from next season the club’s U21s will be based with the first team at the new Woburn Lane, Pleasley, training ground complex, while the youth team would also be spending a couple of days a week up there too.
“It’s a case of looking at where we are now, because we built some brilliant bridges last season with the U21s and the first team,” he said.
“We’ll have the U21s based at Woburn this season, in and around the first team. But we’re also going to get the U18s up at Woburn on a Tuesday and a Thursday.
“It’s about trying to link the age groups as much as we can and strengthen that link to the first team.
“The U18s will still be based at Brooksby Melton College and will still do large parts of their training there.
“But we just have the opportunity now to get the U18s up to Woburn twice a week, which is what we want to do.”
Cooper believes the promotion of John Dempster from academy manager to first team manager will hugely boost the process with his knowledge of the youngsters and how it all works.
“I think John becoming manager will be a massive help,” he said.
“He set this up four seasons ago, so he knows exactly how the academy works.
“We’ve certainly seen the gaffer’s work, and now we’ve been passed the baton now to try and evolve it even further.”
He added: “The academy ethos is really simple, but something that we’ve done from day one. We expect respect, high standards and positive attitudes.
“We expect that from all the boys, and it’s plastered on all of the walls at Brooksby Melton College. It’s always spoken about by our coaches when we’re addressing the boys.
“We look after a lot of players at the football club, and we find that those core values really help us.”
Plans are already in motion for pre-season and summer fitness.
“We’ve done a lot of planning and pre-season games now have to be put in place for the U18s and the U21s,” said Cooper.
“We’ve set up a programme that begins from 24th June, so that’s the training programme and the strength and conditioning. Plus, the boys have got their off-season programme, which Tom Chapman (youth physio) has implemented.
“It’s been all systems go, but we’ll be ready by the end of June.”